Monyake and his political circus
Lesotho’s politicians never cease to amaze. Mophato Monyake is hell-bent on proceeding with officially launching a new political party on 29 November 2014 at the Pitso Ground in Maseru.
Monyake is a former All Basotho Convention (ABC) member, who won the Stadium Area Constituency on Cyclone Tom’s party ticket in 2012 and was subsequently appointed to cabinet.
He was subsequently fired early this year for among other reasons; incompetence, his mishandling of the Lehlohonolo scott saga, his spendthrift ways ( Monyake called his Ministry to send him an extra M15 000 while on a trip to Madagascar).
I must, from the onset, acknowledge every Mosotho’s right to form a political party. But I just cannot fathom any value that Monyake’s party is going to add to our body politic. I thought we had had enough of the Basotho Batho Democratic Parties of this world.
We already have a plethora of husband and wife political parties whose only contribution is to create jobs for their so-called leaders and manufacture havoc and confusion resulting in the kind of drama that our Kingdom is currently enmeshed in.
Take for instance the case of the greatest democracy in the world, the United States. Despite commanding a population of about 316 million people, only two political parties –– the Democratic Party and the Republican party –– underpin its democracy.
The situation is similar in another beacon of democracy, the United Kingdom, where the Labour and the Tory parties, hold sway with some sprinkling of action from those perennial slowpokes, the Liberal Democrats and the emerging UK Independence Party (UKIP).
The UK commands a sizeable population of 64 million yet only two major parties dominate its democratic system.
Why, therefore, does a country like Lesotho, with a population of less than two million need to have nearly a dozen political parties represented in its Parliament.
The answer is to be found partly in what former South African Reserve Bank governor, Tito Mboweni, argued in his opinion masterpiece in the Businessday newspaper of 25 September 2014, under the headline “There is a way to put paid to Lesotho’s political troubles”. Though the Basotho nation is not known for its reading habits, this article is a must read for any literate Mosotho. More about that later.
In the UK and USA, you will never hear that a minister has formed a political party simply because he has been fired from their cabinet posts. Yet in Lesotho, this is almost a norm.
The result is a plethora of political formations not based on intelligible policy positions but the desire to attain political power entirely for its own sake and to access state resources to enrich the founders of these one man, one concubine political “parties”.
There can be no doubt that if Monyake had not fallen victim to Cyclone Tom, he would still be living large as a cabinet minister without the slightest whimper of criticism of the same policies of the ABC that he now so much despises. the problem with political parties formed out of frustration at being fired or out of a desire to exact political revenge is that they almost always remain stillborn.
Apart from being a completely useless endeavor, Monyake’s political formation, which he has named the Progressive Democrats (PD), represents everything wrong (or rather rotten) about our national body politic. We have a ubiquitous supply of inane politicians.
Monyake’s PD is a classic example of forming a political party for its own sake. After reading an article about his PD’S plans, I was left convinced that Monyake will not launch a political party but a circus on 29 November 2014.
It could well be his idea to create something to entertain us amidst our current economic and political vicissitudes that have fostered doom and gloom.
But if he is serious, Monyake, a trained engineer, should know better. I cannot understand how, in the first place, he could ever imagine that anyone would take his party symbol seriously.
I am not sure whether he has taken my earlier advice and changed it or he will maintain it when he launches his “political party”.
The symbol of a raised index finger is as meaningless as it is plain foolish. It’s akin to raising a middle finger at anyone who dares to take an interest in the PD.
In the African context, a party symbol is important insofar as it must represent any political party’s values, principles and belief systems. It always needs careful thought. imbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) for instance adopted a well praised open palm to symbolise openness and the party’s claim that it has nothing to hide.
Thomas Thabane’s ABC used the rising sun to symbolise that a new dawn has arrived. What the hell had Monyake smoked when he thought of a raised index finger?
Alongside his poor symbol is his poor choice of colors for his party’s regalia, dominated by blue and yellow.
Black and white, or red and black, or blue and white –– any combination of two loud colours can do.
But not blue and yellow sir!
they do not add up. When I first saw Monyake’s picture in the newspaper, I reasoned that a new kind of Santa Clause had decided to visit us earlier than usual. In blue and yellow, Monyake instantly became Lesotho’ answer to Mr Bean.
ZAlongside the unacceptable party symbol and colours are the lunatic policies envisaged by Monyake as well as his unfounded determination to form the next government.
Unless he was misquoted, Monyake was quoted in Public Eye declaring that he is eyeing 10 seats in the elections slated for end of February 2015 after the collapse of the Tom and Jerry coalition government.
once in power, Monyake said his main policy plank will be the devolution of power to Lesotho’s 10 districts.
Monyake said no country had truly progressed without introducing the concept of district (or devolved) governments citing the USA and South Africa.
“In America, the states are self-governed while in in South Africa, they have provincial governments elected into place…,” Monyake was quoted as saying.
In another interview with Lena carried in the Lesotho Times, Monyake was quoted as saying devolution of power was necessary because Basotho in rural places like Qacha’s Nek, Mokholtong and thaba tseka, among others, did not care about electricity and good roads but are instead more concerned with their livestock.
Iwould be keen to know such backward Basotho who don’t care about having electricity and clean water into their homes and having good roads into their communities but only rearing livestock.
Surely Monyake must have been misquoted or he simply does not take the very people he expects to propel him to power seriously.
Even the most celebrated cartoon figure, Goofy knows that you cannot form a government in Lesotho with the 10 seats Monyake envisages to win.
But it is Monyake’s policy of devolving power to the districts which confirms him as a being in Cloud Cuckoo Land and better off leaving politics and setting up an engineering workshop in Khubetsoana.
To try and implement America’s devolution model into Lesotho is a very comical, if not absolutely stupid, idea that can only emerge out of Monyake’s very infertile and sterile political imagination.
The 51 states that make up the United States of America are individually very productive economic and industrial hubs commanding huge populations and deserving to run their own affairs.
the biggest states like California, New York, Texas and Florida all command populations upwards of 19 million. They, in fact, can be viable individual states if they were separated from the USA.
the smaller states like Wyoming, Vermont, District of Columbia, North Dakota, Alaska, Delaware each command economies far bigger than Lesotho’s and populations comparable to our Kingdom’s.
The same applies to South Africa where power is divided into the national, provincial and local spheres with the country’s nine provinces being industrial and commercial hubs deserving their own provincial legislatures and local authorities. But even South Africa is realising the futility of its expansive decentralisation of power which has led to it commanding one of the biggest bureaucracies in the world. Some South Africans have hence proposed eliminating the provincial layer of government to remain with the national sphere and local authorities.
Let us, for once, imagine that if Monyake comes to power, he will implement his devolution process with the evangelical zeal he has promised. The few thousand people in Qacha will end up with their self-governing structures and their own district parliament, premier or governor, and their own bureaucracy to run their affairs.
I would certainly throw my name in the hat to be considered for appointment as governor of Mokhotlong under a PD government. It surely must be fun ruling a few hundred people who don’t care about electricity and roads but only their goats, sheep and hens.
What a pity therefore that even if it does well, the best Monyake’s PD can do is to get one proportional representation seat to be occupied by Monyake himself or his concubine, if he opts to declare himself a “selfless leader who puts the people first”.
Ihave often wondered why Basotho are fond of forming political parties. Mboweni partly answered the question. In his article, he wrote: “In this country, which is poor and with a small economy, control of the government is key to the most primitive forms of wealth accumulation.
“Access to a ministry means the ability to loot the state’s resources in order to enrich oneself. It is as crude as all that.
“Once someone becomes a minister, their social status changes, their control over tenders and other state resources is enhanced, and ‘a looter continua!’.
“So the very thought of losing state power drives even the best men and women to go absolutely berserk.
“That is the fundamental basis upon which we should understand the continuing instability in Lesotho.
“Is Lesotho different from many other African countries? Maybe not, but the key difference is in the size of the country’s economy, limited resources and very few private-sector opportunities.
“It is not like Botswana or Namibia, although it is very much like Swaziland.”
I whole heartedly agree with Mboweni. Mboweni was a student at the NUL in the 1980s. that, in itself, is ample testimony of the good work NUL did in its heyday. his knowledge and background of Lesotho is very well grounded.
His arguments help understand why every other fired minister would rush to form a political party instead of taking a break from politics to do other things. Lesotho badly needs entrepreneurs not politicians.
having many political parties does not equate to democracy. It in fact weakens instead of strengthening democracy.
Lesotho needs one good visionary leader to device appropriate policies to harness its economic potential in the few sectors that it can achieve viability. It does not need bureaucratic decentralised district governments.
Lesotho certainly does not need nor deserve the PD.
PD leader Mophato Monyake wearing his party’s colours and (centre) the party symbol.